Malta provided the backdrop of what will be the penultimate European Poker Tour festival. It started in brilliant sunshine, and ended windswept under stormy conditions that sent waves to batter the Maltese shore. Inside meanwhile it was a different story as once more the Main Event produced a unique finale.
Playing an EPT Main Event combines mental fortitude with the capacity to endure long backbreaking periods of, well, sitting and waiting. One player though had anticipated this and devised a plan to remain in pique condition.
The image above is of Sergey Sergeev, moments before a massage therapist arrived to administer what would become a five day rub down.
This lasted almost until Sergeev busted on the feature table on Day four (massages are not allowed on the TV stage), collecting €19,640, half of which paid off his bill. But his was arguably the most relaxed elimination on in poker that day.
It’s almost as familiar as the rattle of chips; the mobile phones used by players as distractions in idle moments between hands. So a hat-tip to Swedish player Orjahn Winther who took the old school approach.
At times Winther seemed more absorbed in his paperback than he did the Main Event. Playing hands were a distraction from the real business of getting to the last page. He would look up momentarily, raise the bet, and return to where his finger was keeping his place. Meanwhile opponents checked their cards and folded incredulously.
Despite a promising start Winther would not make it beyond the very last stages of day one, or his book for that matter.
Away from the tables, William Kassouf’s departure from the WSOP Main Event was the focus of debate, a few arguments, and the wrath of social media as people picked their sides and made their points. Back at the tables it was much the same story as Kassouf set about doing what he does best, winding people up and playing poker.
His eventual elimination was not unlike his Las Vegas demise, involving a pair of kings and a lot of talk, which was extended when he joined the EPT Live team to talk about that hand.
An extended period of hand for hand play meant a late bubble in Malta, but when it came, in the second level of day three, the cameras were ready.
It would be Benjamin Philipps who crashed out, sent to the rail by eventual finalist Tomas Macnamara. That opened the flood gates in terms of eliminations, with the day cut short by a level.
Ole Schemion seemed to spend a lot of the Main Event was on the verge of elimination, so everyone began to expect it. That is everyone except Schemion.
The German pro delighted those watching with an immaculate display of short stack aerobatics that almost secured him a spot on the final table.
Pictured here in his one of his many guises (Ole the Apostle?) he would bust in 13th place, just one victim of the seemingly unstoppable Mats Karlsson.
Like Schemion, Dominik Panka is not a player you become accustomed to seeing with a short stack, and in Malta Panka proved why.
Down to four big blinds on Day 3, he turned that into a stack that took him all the way to the last table, and what looked likely to be a second EPT Malta Main Event final table. He looked set to go even further but fell victim to Karlsson in ninth, then headed to the EPT Live commentary box to graciously joke about his own eventual demise.
Was he unstoppable? Very nearly. Mats Karlsson surprised everyone in the Malta Main Event, not least himself.
An amateur player, he seemed to have the better of one after another finalist, first Schemion, then Panka, then Yurasov. But when it came to heads up against Alaiksei Boika, the Belarussian had the best strategy, as he waited for Karlsson to unravel.
He did. Karlsson admitted afterwards that his performance heads up hadn’t been up to scratch. But it had been good enough to make it a memorable send off for Malta. Boika took the spoils, but arguably Karlsson’s was the performance of the week.
With thanks to official EPT Photographer Neil Stoddart.